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“Othello” and use of persuasive language

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In Shakespeare’s “Othello” persuasive language is used predominantly throughout the text, mainly by the character Iago. Iago is a very different character from all the others in the play. It is Iago’s talent for understanding and manipulating the desires of those around him that makes him both a powerful and compelling figure. Through his persuasive and manipulative nature he seems to be a friend to all. Iago anticipates and manipulates all the other characters in the play so skilfully that they seem to be acting simultaneously of their own free will and as Iago’s puppets. The most predominant persuasive techniques used by Iago are: appealing to humour, repetition, appealing to emotions and the timing of revelation of information.

One predominant technique used by Iago to manipulate other characters is by appealing to humour. This is mostly evident when Iago persuades Cassio to become intoxicated using songs.

“And let me the cannikin clink, clink…” (2, 3, 60)

This comical song about drinking appeals to Cassio’s sense of humour encouraging him to drink more. Thus, Iago is able to persuade Cassio through humour.

The scenes with Iago and the foolish Roderigo are also quite humorous. These scenes act as a showcase of Iago’s manipulative abilities. He seems almost to wink at the audience as he revels in his own skill. Iago uses this humour to persuade the audience. By appealing to the audience’s humour they become entertained and find themselves on Iago’s side when he is with Roderigo.

One particular scene that Iago successfully manipulates Roderigo is when he is convincing him to give him money in return for his assistance with Desdemona. By using Desdemona as a tool of Roderigo’s love he appeals to Roderigo’s emotions. He convinces Roderigo through the use of repetition.

“Put money in thy purse…” (1, 3, 335)

By repeating these words over and over Iago is constantly reminding and reinforcing what Roderigo must do. Also, by telling Roderigo what to do and not asking him, Iago is forcing him to do it by not giving him any other options. Thus, Iago is able to persuade Roderigo through the use of repetition.

Another instance when Iago is able to persuade through repetition is with Othello. However, rather than repeating himself to reinforce a message he repeats Othello to stir emotions.

“Think, my lord?” (3, 3, 107)

Iago is continually playing a game of deception. The riddle that the speech creates is emblematic of Iago’s power. His use of small sentences opens up whole worlds of interpretations. Othello interprets it to mean Iago has something to say but it is too monstrous to say. This causes Othello to think the worst and thus arouses doubt and suspicion in his mind. By repeating everything Othello says Othello becomes frustrated because he wants an answer and Iago won’t give him one. Hence, Iago is able to persuade Othello as he has his total trust, attention and interest.

Another predominant manipulative technique used by Iago is the timing of revelation of information. In Act 3 Scene 3, Iago is able to hold off giving Othello evidence of Desdemona’s infidelity until he has Othello’s trust and has created enough doubt and suspicion in Othello that he is completely unsettled and gullible.

From a casual remark Iago is able to torture and quickly twist Othello’s mind. Iago begins with a few questions and statements and shows Othello a reluctance to make explicit inferences of them. When Othello insists on hearing all, Iago exasperates him even more by refusing to disclosure his thought because they would be too disquieting. Therefore, Iago is able to arouse distrust doubt and jealousy. The timing of events here is very important. Iago anticipates and manipulates the other characters so skilfully to fit in with his plan. It is only after he has aroused jealousy in Othello and Othello becomes so distressed and gullible that Iago can openly implicate Cassio. For if he had said Cassio earlier Othello wouldn’t have been so unsettled and wouldn’t have believed him. Thus the timing of revelation of information is a critical persuasive technique Iago uses to ultimately destroy Othello.

Another text which similarly uses persuasive language is “Bums Away” by Andy Griffiths, a newspaper article from the Sydney Morning Herald. In this article the writer uses various techniques to persuade the reader of his point of view, that adults take his books too seriously. The most predominant techniques he uses are: appealing to humour, repetition, appealing to emotions and the timing of revelation of information.

The most evident technique used by the writer is his appeal to humour. The topis of the article itself “Bums Away” is comical in itself. The writer appeals to the reader’s sense of humour to grab the reader’s attention and get them involved and interested. The writer is establishing a relationship with the reader so as to make it easier to persuade them. The writer is able to use humour to convey a serious message by sneaking under the readers guard.

Once the relationship is established through appealing to humour, the writer begins establishing his line of argument, that adults take his books too seriously. The timing of this is important as if he were to begin the article with this the readers would lose interest. As he has already established a relationship with the reader, the writer is able to persuade the reader more easily.

The writer is passive aggressive in presenting his line of argument. He does this so as to place a firm message in the reader’s mind and so the reader has no other choice but to agree. – “Adults also need to understand…”, “children are perfectly able to tell the difference…” This technique forces the writer’s opinion into the readers mind and thus persuades them to follow his line of argument.

The change in tone of the article is also used as a persuasive technique. The tone of the article become more serious as the writer presents his point of view. This is used to persuade the reader as it gives them the impression the topic is of serious nature. However, humorous overtones are used to maintain the reader’s interest.

Repetition is also used throughout the article to persuade the reader. There s constant repetition of “bum” to reinforce the humour and tone down the seriousness of the article. However, the writer also continuously repeats his line of argument (that adults take the books too seriously) to re-establish it and make it firm in the reader’s mind.

Emotive language is another predominant persuasive technique used. The writer uses emotive language to create an emotional response with the reader so they don’t logically evaluate the message being received. The writer uses subjective language and 1st person so as to show this is his opinion and makes the article more personal. Words such as “exciting and funny red…” “Learn to love…” and “wild and dangerous” create this emotional response and thus persuade the reader.

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